Aside from taking a bow (or three) and receiving applause, actors don’t typically address the audience following a stage performance.
But last night’s production of the one-woman show The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe at L.A.’s Mark Taper Forum was not an average night at the theater for Cecily Strong, hence why she took 30 seconds at the end of a very enthusiastic standing ovation to make an announcement.
“I want to acknowledge one very special person who’s here tonight — our original Trudy, our hero, the incredible Lily Tomlin,” she said, her voice quivering with emotion as she shouted out the comedy legend, a reveal that was greeted by shock and awe from the sold-out crowd on opening night. The room responded by intensifying an already electric round of applause as guests scanned the seats to locate Tomlin.
Strong prefaced the reveal by saying it’s something that has never happened before, underscoring what a special night it was for all involved. Tomlin won a Tony Award in 1986 for originating the role on Broadway based on a script penned by the woman who would eventually become her wife, Jane Wagner.
The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe follows the “seemingly disparate lives of a punk-rock rebel, a socialite, a feminist and a deceptively insightful observer, among many others,” per press materials. Emmy-nominated Saturday Night Live star Strong knows the material well as the new production was originally produced by The Shed in New York last year with her in the starring role.
Directed by Leigh Silverman, the show began previews at Mark Taper Forum on Sept. 21 and will run through Oct. 23. Produced in association with SNL honcho Lorne Michaels and veteran stage producer Bill Damaschke, the show is being presented in association with The Shed.
After the show, Tomlin spent some time catching up with Strong, Damaschke, Silverman and Center Theater Group managing director and CEO Meghan Pressman. Also taking in the show Wednesday were Family Guy executive producer Rich Appel and actors Peter Paige, Joe Pacheco and Barrett Foa, among others.
On Instagram, Strong opened up about the swell of emotions she experienced from performing the piece in front of Tomlin. “I am still tearing up today when I think about last night. Opened my favorite show with my favorite people [Leigh Silverman and Bill Damaschke] I found out our ‘original Trudy’ would be at the show in the afternoon and cried all day up to and including the moment during bows where I got to acknowledge her,” she shared. “I am beyond grateful that Jane and Lily have shared this show with me and us and it’s never going to feel normal. In the best way. I’m dealing with some major awe-infinitum.”